More About How to Help Kids and Pets


When babies and pets are allowed to develop an expectation that every bite of every food will always be delicious within certain narrow parameters (i.e., sugary, for babies), they start off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, parents often don’t realize that the liquid nutritional supplements they are guilt-tripped into buying are just a sludge of sugar and fat. (See Dr. Pretlow’s “Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity“).

An overwhelmingly sweet diet can really throw the human palate out of whack. A child who has never experienced anything except sweetness-enhanced food will have difficulty adjusting to things like vegetables. Good fresh broccoli tastes like good fresh broccoli, but it doesn’t taste like a hot-fudge sundae.

In the fabled 60s, some people found that psychedelic drugs allowed them to appreciate the flavors of raw, whole foods for the first time. Little babies are like that. They deserve a chance to find out what unsweetened food tastes like. Thousands of generations of humans have survived sugarless childhoods.

So have thousands of generations of animals, before humans got involved. Cats are unimpressed by sugar because they can’t taste it. Dogs like sweetness, but shouldn’t have it. There is absolutely no reason for sugar to be in dog food, yet it is there. Pet-parents, read the ingredient list carefully! Dogs are said to like onion and garlic, which is surprising but beneficial. An adult dog, by the way, only needs one meal per day.

In the mind

We have been talking about the unhealthy and very unhelpful co-dependency that can afflict pet-parents, preventing a good resolution of the overeating addiction. An example comes from a dog-lovers’ forum:

Just seeing his eyes light up when I present him with a raw chicken part is absolutely precious, lol! When he goes to take it his eyes totally bug out and he looks like a psycho dog! BTW, this is one of my favorite pictures… I’m torturing him with the “Leave it” command while I take pictures, lol! The “cake” is actually turkey meatloaf with peanut butter “frosting.” I just love the way dogs look right before they get food…

Those remarks are borderline pervy, and it would not be surprising if the pet-parent who wrote them is morbidly obese. On general principle, check out this introduction to the subject of pet obesity.

Then, let us resume yesterday’s discussion about what happens when a pet-parent or child-parent initiates a program designed to reverse the addiction to problem eating.

Dr. Pretlow’s studies of the W8Loss2Go smartphone app have shown that the first two stages, where the subject leaves behind specific problem foods and quits snacking, are relatively smooth. The next step is to cut down mealtime servings, and then, the psychological environment might change.

This quotation is from the article that Dr. Pretlow co-authored with Dr. Ronald J. Corbee:

Withdrawal from excessive food amounts at meals was associated with significant withdrawal symptoms including nagging urges, agitation and even anger. Hence, in pets, withdrawal from excessive amounts at meals may prove more difficult than withdrawal/abstinence from specific treats.

Both kids and pets do things that a grownup needs to be ready for. Withholding affection is a classic ploy — giving the parent the cold shoulder. Anger is very hard to deal with, especially with kids, because so many other issues intrude. Pets find their ways of exacting revenge. To meet these behaviors, it’s a good idea to prepare by studying up beforehand.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model,”, 06/17/16
Photo credit: Martin Cathrae via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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